Ask the Lawyers:
Is PTSD covered by Workers Compensation?
While post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is most often associated with combat veterans, any traumatic event can trigger the same symptoms. Employees in any job who experience extremely shocking or disturbing events at work can develop PTSD, and in many cases, it will be covered by workers compensation.
In this article, Long Beach workers compensation lawyers Cantrell Green explain the relationship between PTSD and the workplace, and how workers compensation may be available to assist affected employees.
What Causes PTSD
PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can occur when a person experiences or witnesses such things as natural disasters, serious accidents, acts of violence, rape, or other traumatic events. The American Psychiatric Association estimates that as many as one in 11 people will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime, with women being twice as likely as men to suffer from it.
Those with PTSD have intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to the trauma they experienced, and it lasts a long time after the actual event is over. Many experience flashbacks and nightmares, feel uncontrolled sadness, fear or anger, and feel detached from other people.
PTSD came to the attention of the general population as a result of publicity associated with combat veterans. In the past, it was referred to as “shell shock” or “combat fatigue.” Essentially, military personnel who were exposed to the horrors of battle returned to the states plagued by memories and flashbacks, which persisted long after their service had ended.
Relationship between PTSD and Workers Compensation
Workplace-related PTSD causes the same issues as those experienced by many military veterans. And when PTSD is caused by an event that took place at work, workers compensation comes into play.
While a diagnosis of PTSD entails some level of exposure to a traumatic event, that exposure can be either from direct involvement or from witnessing an event. It is an unfortunate reality that serious accidents and even acts of violence are becoming more and more common in the workplace. These incidents can cause employees to be in fear for their own lives and the lives of those around them.
For example, first responders are frequently exposed to horrific situations, such as severe automobile accidents, stabbings, shootings, or fires. While their experience is indirect, what they are forced to deal with may lead to symptoms of PTSD that can sideline even the most seasoned employee.
Or, imagine the trauma experienced by a teacher who witnesses one of the all-too-common rash of active shooting incidents at schools across the nation. The teacher would likely be in fear for her own life as well as the lives of the students for whom she is responsible. In the course of the event, the teacher may even witness the massacre, or the resulting carnage.
How Workers Compensation Coverage is Determined for PTSD
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a publication relied upon by the workers compensation system, describes the criteria necessary for PTSD to be covered by workers compensation.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, PTSD symptoms must begin or persist for at least a month after the incident. If the symptoms last less than a month, they are not considered to be PTSD, but rather, the less serious acute stress disorder. ASD and PTSD are treated differently in terms of workers compensation claims.
Additionally, a psychologist or psychiatrist must diagnose the traumatized worker as having PTSD.
CA Workers Compensation Recognizes PTSD Can Be Work Related
California and a few other states refer specifically to PTSD in the language of their workers compensation laws. For instance, in California, there must be a finding that the working conditions were responsible at least by 51% for the PTSD. In states where PTSD is not addressed in the workers compensation laws, coverage for PTSD depends upon the cause, and whether or not the specific state recognizes it as a work related injury at all.
If you have experienced physical trauma, California (and in fact most states) recognizes that the ensuing PTSD is a mental injury caused by the physical injury. If that is the case, the PTSD will be compensable under workers compensation.
California is a bit unique in that it allows for workers compensation coverage for purely psychiatric injuries. Even so, it is not uncommon for employers and insurance companies to still deny workers compensation claims for PTSD.
You may need to do a little extra leg work to push for your PTSD to be covered, by proving that the psychiatric injury was caused by an event that occurred on the job. Seeking the advice of an experienced workers compensation attorney will help you to collect the proper documentation to support your claim, and shepherd you through the process.
Long Beach Workers Compensation Lawyers
Cantrell Green, highly experienced workers compensation lawyers in the Long Beach area, have been protecting workers’ rights for over 45 years. If you have experienced trauma on the job resulting in PTSD, seeking the advice of qualified lawyers such as those at Cantrell Green will help you to know your rights and receive the compensation and benefits that you deserve. If you live in Orange County or the greater Los Angeles area, call Cantrell Green today for a free consultation to see what benefits may be available to you.
Your consultation with our workers’ comp lawyers is 100% confidential, and neither your employer nor your insurance company will be notified that you requested a consultation with us. Our lawyers will help you understand your rights and work tirelessly to ensure that you receive the maximum workers’ comp benefits for which you qualify.
Call our Workers Compensation lawyers for a FREE CONSULTATION: 800-964-8047
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